Thursday, March 31, 2005

Out of Place

If you have not yet grasped it, my biggest struggle in making my way through the world is that I feel out of place. I never quite feel like I fit in the same mold as everybody else. I had hoped this was purely a childhood thing, but I am much closer to thirty than twenty and the feeling shows no sign of abating.

I have often prayed not to "be like everybody else," but to be enough like everybody else that I can be social and able to hold a conversation, to buy a house and drive a car without perpetual fear of breakdown. To be married, have kids, buy an RV and go camping. To live into my retirement years, enjoy life, and die content.

Perhaps some of my hopes built subconsciously on this base must then be denied, because that is a tempting trap to fall in to. Comfort. Conformity for conformity's sake. To take the wide, easy road through life. I try despite noticeable obstacles to hold to the closest approximation of that life that I can, because I am afraid of what else might be out there, and because I don't really know what other course to plot.

Life in every face I see seems to be the normal pursuit of normal things, and while I have always felt like that is not for me, I all the more desperately want to hold on to it. I tell myself that I just need some things of that life to take with me - a wife for support and companionship on a lonely road, a home because it is a wise investment, a car for practical considerations. But I sometimes think that each comfort I try to take is just another strap lashing me to the ship I both want to abandon and on which I want to make my home.

Where do you go next when you only know the direction not to go?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Online Dating

Rejection is hard enough with a relatively small sample of people you know. Why add tens of thousands to that pool. Hope? "Do not trust to hope; it has forsaken these lands."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

'Tis the Season

It's almost Easter, and this is a busy time of year for the church. I have been home at night mostly to sleep, but other than that have been busy learning the cound cues for our Easter musical.

After setting up the stage for the Sunday Morning service, I went to WalMart to get some extra batteries and a bite to eat. I had never before been to WalMart on the day before Easter. Many people going through the candy and "seasonal" aisles, filling up their quotient of expected gifts to give tomorrow. As I continued walking, I saw many trinkets for sale, including a "Collectible Easter Cross."

I admit that I laid rather quick judgement on the materialisim seeking to cash in on the most important day in all of history - and doing a poor job of it. But it goes deeper, to a place where we should fear to tread. How often this weeken have I or my fellow believers stopped and allowed a moment of hushed silence for what we are celebrating - God, the mighty maker dying for man the creature's sin.

I am too easily distracted - too easily lost in the work of the moment. Today is the day that typifies our lives, observing the heartbreak of the cross - the seeming victory of evil, the absence of God's justice, and every pain, every heartbreak screaming that God does not care - with only the faintest idea of what comes after. Which was worse - to watch Christ die on Friday, or to wake up and later fall asleep on Saturday knowing that he was dead - beaten, bloodied, and buried? To fear that this day would set the pattern for all those that followed?

We who know the ending too easily forget that our deepest cries against God were echoed that day by those our Lord had walked with. The cross remained - still crusted with the freshly spilt blood of the new covenant, the grave was full, the Christ was dead. The disciples hid in fear, the women wept. And all of this on the day set aside by God for rest and for worship.

They fell asleep Saturday fitful, frightened that the angry mob from yesterday would find them. Peter was racked with guilt - denying that he even knew Jesus as he watched his master led away to his death.

This was Easter Saturday. This is what we should remember this day - not someone's favorite flavor of chocolate.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday

My prayer for today:

God, I believe that at least one of the reasons that you died so many years ago today was to show us that even the most hopeless situation can be redeemed. I'm feeling pretty low. Do what you did before.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Why I don't belong at (my) church

1) At a Men's Ministry breakfast, organized to gather information from the men of the church and to propose a direction for the ministry, I was asked to share my testimony. I shared briefly how I came to Christ and my past experiences, and focused on the great difficulty that comes with being a young single, never having dated and with great fear of being alone. There were the polite nods, and one man shared that he was glad not to be my age anymore, almost flippantly. When the meeting was over, I quickly left and never attended another such gathering.

2) At a social gathering - a birthday, I think - there was a group of guys within a couple years of my age talking. Mostly married, but I wanted to try to connect to them, searching for a place where I could belong. I was ignored but for one snide comment when I tried to join in the conversation. I don't think I spoke with any of them since.

3) The last time I met with our pastor 2 or 3 years ago, we talked politely about things in my life. I shared about being single, and the difficulty that comes with it. He asked if I was interested in anyone. I told him of somebody, not who he had suspected, and he made me promise to try and call her, using an upcoming event where we both happened to be serving as an excuse, and invite her to something. I did as he asked. I know from experience the sound of someone's voice as they progress from laughter as they answer the phone to a quick suspicion - "why are you calling me?" I rattled off the information the pastor had asked me to pass along, and mentioned that I would be haivng people over to watch a movie. She was, of course, horribly busy but would think about it. Her tone of course said that if there was but one acre of land left on the planet and I was on one side, she would hang off the other side by her fingernails before showing up.

4) At a birthday party for a former college pastor, he surveyed the group of since moved-on people and talked about how the leadership of the group had been interested mostly in promoting marriage and getting people in the group married. Sure enough, most everybody from the college group when I was there was married.

5) The 20-35 year old group is going through a book of the Bible for a Sunday School class. Oh. I'm sorry. Did I say 20-35 year old? I meant Young Married's class. I hear you wouldn't know it from the content, and at best you might ascertain it from the makeup of the class. What do I do during that hour? Surf the internet, read e-mail if I have any, sometimes take a nap in the sound booth.

6) When people get married, the first people to reenter the lives of the couple are the friends of the bride, and any other couples their age. Why? Not sure. But I watched the same scenario for the 4 (and only) guys I have known best before they were married. At least it's predictable.

Jose once used the analogy of trying to imagine what a red dot would feel like if surrounded by only blue dots to explain how a Christian might feel in, say, the Middle East. I am the red dot. But the blue dots are the people around me in church.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Perhaps I was unfair to organizations like the Tim LaHaye group in my last post. After all, if I allow that these men are following God as best they can, are spreading the gospel to those who do not know, and serving as they have been called, who am I to judge another man? To his own Master he will rise or fall.

I must disclose that I have incredible distrust for anything slick, smooth, or polished. Though I work in sales support, and on occasion have to discuss a product with a customer, I don't much like "salesmen." I don't trust them, because I know that everything has a sharp edge and not expecting it gets you cut that much worse. I don't like programs that tell you how wonderful they are, and I think anything that guarantees results that belong to the sovreign choices of God Almighty are, for lack of a better word, damned lies.

That said, I read something as I was reading this evening that reminded me of my biggest fear about the church today: that in seeking to appeal to an audience it has removed the sense that church has something to offer beyond this world. Certainly we claim that we do, but if all of our actions conform to the pattern of this world... then I suppose the proof is in the pudding.

I have often thought about starting churches, but in truth I doubt that I am the man to do such things. Good intent, sure. But being single in a world of couples has a way of beating you down like a sack of doorknobs. Some of my highest respect is for those who maintain simple and unwavering faith under similar circumstances. Given the choice between the knowledge that comes so easily for me and the faith that seems to come so easily for them, I'd trade in a heartbeat.


I think if my church has another "end-times / prophecy / Left Behind" conference I may in fact run screaming from the building.

One was nice. Two was okay. Three seemed a bit much. Four was definitely a bit much. But they just keep coming.

Perhaps I would be less agitated if we had more conferences on how to be a servant of all; on looking after widows, orphans, and aliens; on how to be more like Christ. I want a conference that actually has value for myself and the world.

Why, then, do we avoid such topics? Why do we continue to pull from the "Tim LaHaye Prophecy Group?" Do we do it (1) because the person picking speakers loves the topic, (2) because we think this will draw more people, or (3) because this is really what concerns us most?

I go to run sound and Power Point. I think this year I will try to recruit someone else and do something more productive, like picking the lint from under my toenails.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Go Pack!

I am a great fan of my alma mater's athletic programs. A season ticket holder to the last several year's worth of football games has been average, but hardly exemplary. But as great a football fan as I am, I believe that Reno will soon become a basketball town all year long.

For as long as I can remember, basketball has been but a stepchild to the much talked-about football team. The most exciting times of the athletic schedule were once the sole property of the football department, but that time is no more. For only the second time in school history, the Pack has gone to the NCAA basketball tournament for the second year in a row. Twice we went in the mid-eighties as the Big Sky Automatic Bid. Then last year, we went and won - not just once, but twice. The town was elated, but slowly returned to normal.

Expectations were low this year - a new head coach, and an almost completely new starting lineup. Gone were the frightening guards Okeson and Snyder. Gone was the presence of Sean Paul and Garry Hill-Thomas. And, the final blow - gone was the coach who had built the program. Picked to finish in the middle of the conference, there was optimisim, but perhaps little more.

Then we lost - on our home court. That had never happened in the whole previous season. The mystique may have shattered then, but it did not.The team played reasonably well, competing in every game it played, winning most. By the end of the season, the Pack had managed to close out a 9-0 conference record on the road. We had broken into the AP poll, ranked #25, #25, and #24 in consecutive weeks. Expectations were once again high as the conference tournament approached - our team as the #1 seed, the tournament on our home court - life was indeed good.

Crushing, heart-wrenching disappointment. The Pack, playing a lackluster game against #8 seed Boise State had but a two point lead with 3.3 seconds left in the game. Their player drove to the hoop and drew a foul. First shot... good. Nail-biting had worn our fingers raw. Second shot... bounced off the rim... it's in the air... it's grabbed by a boise player 5 feet from the rim... he shoots... he scores! NO! The shout echoed between the mountains in the valley. The home team... the number one seed... the automatic bid. All gone.

The pundits had said that Nevada had wrapped up an automatic berth, but all was now uncertain. A couple days later, our fate was announced: #9 seed in the Chicago bracket. Huzzah! Our first ever at-large berth to the tournament. Our highest seed ever.

The game was tense, and both teams gave it everything they could. Neither team ever led by more than 6, that only once, and even 5 points was a rarity. Nevada had a 5 point lead with 7 minutes to play, by 2:30 left Texas had taken a 4 point lead. Nevada narrowed it to 1 with 1:24 to play, and took the lead with under 50 seconds to play.

Had the game been a minute longer, the outcome may not have been what it was. Now, perhaps the best team Nevada has ever played. A team that has lost but once all season long. A team picked as the top overall seed in the tournament.

Back-to-back tournament bids with back-to-back first round wins. A shot at upsetting the best team in the tournament.

Football is dead. Long live the denizens of Lawlor Events Center!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Unanswered Questions

Why is every leader of note in my church either married or widowed?

Subquestions: why was my good buddy not made "worship director" until he was engaged or married (and is it bad that I Cannot remember which)?

Why was a married "college administrator" as old or older than every then-leader in the college group appointed who immediately dismissed some of us as too old to connect to that age group (one would think that 24 and married has a harder time connecting than 24 and single)?

What happens if you keep going past the edge of the universe?

How much of our carefully postulaed scientific theory is completely wrong?

Why do mayflies only live as adults for a day?

Does praying actually change anything in the world, or just me?

Why is Sunday the most emotionally difficult day of the week?

Given that I am lonely, why do I pull away from opportunities for human contact?

Why do all of my best ideas occur when it is too late to blog them as I am leaving for work?

Why are different smells or tastes pleasing to one person and repulsive to another?

Why can I be social and friendly at work with complete strangers, and rarely answer the phone when a friend calls at home?

Why does a well-intentioned rejection like "You're a nice guy and I'm sure you'll make some lucky girl very happy" hurt more than one that is more direct and not designed to be encouraging?

Why did we ever do away with arranged marriage?

And finally...

Why did I spend hours pulling out my thermostat and lower radiator hose after my car gushed a volume of water similar to that of Niagra Falls, only to return with new parts and discover the 1/4" hole in an immediately adjacent and much smaller hose when I was ready to repair my car tonight?

Monday, March 07, 2005


What is the bare minimum needed for "church" to happen? Please, comment. Christian or not, religious or not - what has to happen for a gathering of people to become a "church service?"

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sweet, Sweet Irony

"Your overconfidence is your weakness," Luke said with defiance to the Emperor.
"Your faith in your friends is yours," snarled the Emperor in reply.
-Poorly Adapted from Return of the Jedi

Is it not interesting that, in the end, Luke's overconfidence left him blasted by lightning from the Emperor's fingertips while the Emperor was hurled to his death by Darth Vader, the closest thing to a "friend" the soul-less evil megalomaniac had?

It is said that we spot our own weaknesses most readily in others. I think I agree.